I have been following the buzz in the food allergy online support groups for a while now. It seems many of the parents in these groups live in fear of an allergen being encountered casually and thus causing anaphylaxis and death. Yet many don’t think of the more common killer. Asthma.
Asthma is a chronic lung condition. Triggers of asthma can be the following:
Environmental triggers, such as dust, mold, pollen
Weather: weather changes, cold weather. High ozone
Pets, odors, viral infections and exercise induced asthma.
According to the CDC, Asthma affects 18.7 million adults and 6.8 million children in the United States; it’s responsible for 1.8 million ER visits, and 439,000 hospital admissions and 3,630 deaths in 2013. Interestingly enough, a comprehensive study into anaphylaxis was done in 2014 (Comprehensive study of allergic deaths in the U.S.) It found that medications like antibiotics etc, are the main culprit of anaphylaxis. The study found that over a 10 year period there were 2,458 deaths due to anaphylaxis. Of the deaths, they found that the majority of deaths were due to medication (58.8%) followed by unspecified anaphylaxis (19.3%), followed by venom due to insect bites with 15.2%; and food (6.75%).
Asthma kills more in one year then anaphylaxis does in 10! Yet asthma is not treated with the same fear as peanut allergy or any food allergy. Why is that? Yes both can kill, but uncontrolled asthma is much more of a risk. Parents worry about someone bringing in a peanut butter sandwich into the cafeteria but not asthma. Did you know having asthma puts you at higher risk for having a severe reaction, especially when the asthma is not kept under control? Why is it that we have deep heated discussions about food allergies, yet asthma is hardly mentioned? Nobody is posting every death article about someone who has died from an asthma attack, but for every death from a food allergy, it’s all over the place! Asthma needs to be taken as seriously as food allergies. If you fear food allergies, then fear asthma also.
It is also next to impossible to eliminate all asthma triggers; mold, viruses, and dust, weather changes to some extent are all beyond our control.The common cold can put some asthmatics in the hospital. This is why it is so vital to use controller medication even when no symptoms are present. Even if you haven’t had an attack in years, something can cause an attack. There is no such thing as outgrowing asthma. Can it get milder? Yes! But once you have sensitive airways, you’re always at risk for an attack.
It’s vital that one stays on all medications prescribed for their asthma and follow their asthma action plan. It’s also important that if you notice you are using your rescue inhaler more often, then you should contact you doctor. Frequent use of rescue inhalers can indicate poor control of asthma.
It is time that food allergy parents realize that asthma poses a threat, and to start taking it more seriously. Asthma is a major contributing factor in fatal anaphylaxis deaths. All people with asthma with or without food allergies should have an action plan and be followed by a doctor.